By now, there has been a chorus of voices criticizing Donald Trump for his reaction to the events in Charlottesville Virginia. In case you don’t know, Charlottesville is the city in which the main campus of the University of Virginia, with its approximately 45,000 students, resides. So there was bound to be some pushback to a white supremacist rally in the middle of the city.
I really want to make two points about this that most other commentators have not yet made:
- First, if you watch the video, you can see that Trump is reading a prepared statement – a statement he seems to be uncomfortable reading – and then he improvises the “on many sides” line. It’s obvious that this line is improvised, and that he couldn’t wait to get there and dilute the power of the previous statement.
- Second, this is the same guy who made such an issue out of Barack Obama not using the term “radical Islamic terrorist” (a term that, ironically, Donald Trump also refused to use back in May of 2017 when he was making a televised speech in Saudi Arabia).
A number of commentators have pointed out (like John Oliver, for example) that it should have been the easiest thing for Donald Trump to refute white supremacists, and yet he didn’t do it.
Other people have pointed out that Trump’s own grandchildren are Jewish, his son-in-law is Jewish, and even his own daughter has converted to Judaism, and yet Trump cannot seem to condemn Neo-Nazis.
Apologists for Trump have made the argument that there was some violence on both sides between the white supremacists and the counter-protestors, and this is true. But that obscures the fact that the central event – James Fields driving his Dodge Charger into a crowd of people marching away from the rally – came from one side and one side only.
The apologists obscure the fact that what James Fields did was, by any standard definition, a terrorist incident, premeditated and unprovoked. Rex Tillerson can admit that. Ivanka Trump can admit that. Even Mike Pence can admit that. But not the Donald.
Now, I don’t believe that Donald Trump is actually a white supremacist, and I don’t know that he’s much worse of a racist than most of the rest of us. But what is different about Trump is that he’s clearly willing to go to bed with racists.
The man with the insatiable ego, with the runaway narcissistic personality disorder – a disorder so extreme that psychiatrists and psychologists are rethinking the necessity of the Goldwater Rule – will go to bed with anyone who will support him. White supremacists, Neo-Nazis and racists of all stripes have been gleeful in their support of Trump.
The Donald, as he has done in the past, will continue to claim that he is the least racist and least anti-Semitic person alive – a claim so ludicrous that it is not even deserving of placement on a satirical website. But Trump may actually believe this about himself. It’s hard to tell where reality actually intrudes into the mind of Donald Trump.
In any case, his hypocrisy could not be any louder and clearer. Trump governs only for the 35% or so of his hardcore believers, but is losing everyone else. That group of hardcore supporters will shrink over time as Trump fails to deliver, but it’s still a disturbingly large coterie of people whose thought process is incomprehensible to me. And for whom going to bed with racists (or just being racists) is no big thing.
 This is one of the right’s favorite rhetorical techniques, to set up equivalencies which are clearly and demonstrably false.
 I want to clarify here that I’m not saying that all Trump supporters are racists. As logicians will remind us, proximity and causality are not the same thing. But Trump supporters are clearly willing to overlook his getting in bed with overt and adamant racists, and that is saying something in and of itself.
When he moved into lowest number of unemployed workers, etc… statistics my teens heads both snapped up and asked if he really just said that in a speech about Charlottesville. Yes, yes he did.
Yesterday, Trump sort of did the right thing by holding a press conference in which he said that ‘racism is evil.’ No shit, Sherlock. But, of course, it left everyone unhappy. Opponents of Trump saw through his insincerity, and were just as unhappy with his weak make-up attempt as they were with his fumbling of his original response. Trump supporters were unhappy because this was Trump bowing to the forces of political correctness. And Trump himself was unhappy because he gained nothing. So he tried to blame the ‘fake’ media. Except that this is not about the media. Americans of all stripes (other than the actual racists) were dumbfounded (or outraged) by his initial response. And you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, as every marketing expert around the world already knows.